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February 16, 2024

Healey releases environmental justice strategy focusing on lower-income communities

A large brick building with columns in front and a gold dome on top with a long staircase leading up to it and an American flag on the left hand side. Photo | Courtesy of Commonwealth of Massachusetts Massachusetts State House

The state's environmental arm has a new strategy to bring equity into focus in the programs and policies under its purview.

The Healey administration released its first environmental justice strategy Thursday, a 182-page report to drive new practices with the "deep understanding that all communities deserve environmental protection regardless of race, national origin, or income bracket," a release from the administration said.

Among the new policies, the Department of Energy Resources will have to look at "energy burden," and how low-income communities are overburdened with the cost of energy, Undersecretary of Environmental Justice and Equity María Belén Power said at a Thursday briefing.

The administration will also prioritize clean energy and sustainability efforts in environmental justice neighborhoods, defined as lower-income communities with higher percentages of minorities or residents who don't speak English as a first language. The Department of Agriculture Resources, under the new plan, will work with Native American tribes and indigenous communities to advance food access and security.

Departments under the Executive Office of Environment and Energy will offer resources and grant applications in a wider range of languages and coordinate environmental justice training for all staff under the EEA office.

"It is a historic moment, because we are addressing the harms and trying to reverse decades and generations of environmental injustice in the most overburdened and vulnerable populations," Power said.

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